Steam Deck stole Nintendo's thunder, but Pokémon Unite stole it back

Can the Steam Deck take the Switch’s handheld crown?

Nintendo has been in the spotlight quite a bit over the last couple of weeks thanks to two big game releases and the new Nintendo Switch OLED model. This attention has been positive for Nintendo overall as the gaming company has released some very popular products. However, some people have been disappointed with the new hardware and in the wake of that, Valve stole some of Nintendo’s thunder with a new device that could take some of Nintendo’s gaming market.

Steam Deck vs Switch OLED model

The Steam Deck is more like the fabled “Switch Pro” than what Nintendo is actually making.

After weeks of Switch Pro hype, the new Nintendo Switch OLED model finally got officially announced as a mild upgrade to the Switch line rather than the powerful upgrade many had hoped for. Then, as OLED model preorders were just a couple hours away from going live last Thursday, Valve announced a brand new handheld gaming system, the Steam Deck, which in many ways was more in line with the fabled Switch Pro than what Nintendo itself is creating.

So how exactly does it overshadow the Switch? Valve states that the Steam Deck can play any game in the Steam library — that’s basically millions of games. The system comes in three different versions that get more expensive as they get more powerful. They have slightly better resolution at 1280×800 and also feature Bluetooth, which the Switch does not.

Two of these Steam Deck iterations feature SSDs, which should make them run faster and smoother than the Switch ever has. But perhaps the most fascinating part of this new device is that it runs a Linux operating system with a Proton compatibility layer. Theoretically, this means it could run just about any program that could run on Linux, even Xbox Game Pass making it a very customizable and very versatile device. It sounds to us like Valve is vying to sell the ultimate portable gaming machine.

Steam Deck reservations opened last Friday and sold out very quickly. Still, despite the OLED model not being the suped up Switch version people hoped for and not really comparing to the Steam Deck in terms of performance, preorders for it still managed to sell out within minutes. Since Valve’s new gaming system hasn’t released yet, it’s hard to say just how it will be received and how well it will perform. One thing’s for sure though. It could prove dangerous to the Nintendo Switch being the only direct intensive handheld gaming system competing with the OLED model this year.

Another Zelda comes to Switch

Fortunately, Nintendo has several popular Switch games that will continue to sustain it. Just last Friday, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD released, updating the original motion-control heavy Wii game for the Switch era. When playing, people can choose between motion controls or button controls to make Link swing his sword.

This has always been one of the most divisive Zelda games due to certain mechanics and the HD version continues to be divisive now. The controls in the new version have definitely gotten better and there have been several quality-of-life improvements to make the experience more enjoyable. It seems the game has sold well, though we don’t know the numbers yet. Last I checked, it was listed as the bestseller in the Nintendo eShop. Even so, opinions are torn on whether the game is actually any good.

In addition to the game, a Zelda & Loftwing amiibo and Zelda Skyward Sword HD Joy-Cons also released on the same day and proved to both be incredibly popular. Retailers sold out within minutes each time these collector’s items became available.

Pokémon Unites us

We’ve known that Pokémon Unite, a free-to-play 5v5 MOBA game, was in development for oveer a year, with a regional beta opening to select Android users earlier this year. However, no firm date for the full game release had been known until last week when The Pokémon Company suddenly announced the game would be coming to Nintendo Switch on July 21 before coming to iOS and Android in September. That makes this the 10th Pokémon game on Nintendo Switch.

You put the words “free” and “Pokémon” next to each other and you’re sure to get people running. The game has been incredibly popular and even though we don’t know how many downloads it’s had on Switch, the official Pokémon Unite Twitter account already has 85.1K followers.

This popularity is further understandable given that Pokémon fans can control a roster filled with some fan-favorite Pokémon and play with their friends for free without even needing a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. The overall point of the game is very simple: defeat opponents and score points. It’s easy to get into, but it also takes some skill to master making it a fun game for beginners and MOBA veterans alike.

Now the question is, will Pokémon Unite have staying power and become another Pokémon Go? Or will it be like The Pokémon Company’s other Pokémon apps that have gotten a lot of initial attention before dropping off into the Pokémon graveyard? (i.e. Pokémon Masters or Pokémon Cafe Mix). It’s honestly hard to say at present. There isn’t a lot of variety in the battle arenas, but we do know that some upcoming events will introduce additional Pokémon and possibly more modes to the game. We’ll see how that goes.

That’s it for this week’s Nintendo update. There’s plenty of exciting new things to try on Nintendo Switch this week and if you keep an eye open you just might be able to snag one of the new Switch OLED models if it shows up online. Enjoy your weekend and have fun playing your favorite games.

Until next time.

- Rebecca Spear

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